The One True Scotsman Is Polyamorous, Apparently

I was told the other day that unless all people in a poly relationship loved each other, and were happy, and not manipulating each other, that it wasn’t *really* polyamory.

And look, I get the need to distinguish polyamory from swinging, or even just really bad polyamory. I myself have written essays like Polyfuckery vs. Polyamory, where I’ve referred to certain types of terribly poly as “quote-unquote polyamory.”

Yet I think it’s too goddamned easy to define polyamory by its perfection, as opposed to looking at it as the sum of all its flaws.  I think that handwaving off the “bad” poly as “not really being polyamory” marginalizes the many people who have terrible experiences with it, and covertly shuns the people who haven’t managed to make it work properly as being insufficient to the cause, and quietly attempts to erase all the dysfunctionality that often festers in polyamorous networks.

Most educated people would get furious if I said that polyamory consisted exclusively of two primaries and a secondary relationship.  And I think they should get equally furious if I said that polyamory consisted exclusively of well-tuned loving relationships.

Because if someone’s in an abusive monogamous relationship, that doesn’t remove the monogamy.  If someone’s in a monogamous relationship for petty and shallow reasons, that doesn’t make it not-monogamous.  Hell, even if someone’s in a relationship where someone cheats, again, the monogamy is present – it’s a broken form of monogamy, certainly, but common enough that we need to look at cheating as a failure state that can happen within monogamous relationships.

(Even if, yes, polyamory includes the word “love” and monogamy doesn’t.  Yet that borked definition, if you’ve ever referred to two people casually dating as monogamous, you left off the gamos for “marriage” and as such you’ve committed word-fuckery. Get over y’self.  Every word eventually evolves beyond its word-roots.)

I get the urge.  Polyamory is often crapped upon by monogamous society, viewed as strange and off-putting and “I had this friend who was in a poly relationship and she hated it, so it can’t possibly work.”  The temptation to snip out all those uncomfortable parts of poly that lurk at the fringes and leave only the shiniest happy bits makes it a lot easier to talk about poly with your friends.

Yet saying to a divorcee, “It didn’t work out for you guys?  Guess you weren’t really monogamous” is dismissive, hurtful, and sneering.  And it’s no less so for those people who have smashed face-first into a beehive of awful polyamorous behaviors, and had a bad experience, and are now being told on some level that they were too stupid to know the “false” polyamory when they saw it.

Because the truth is, that bad polyamory isn’t on the fringe – that selfishness and manipulation is often at the heart of polyamory as it exists in the real world. What looks like love at first often turns out to be sociopathic marketing.  And as such, the word polyamory is large, sprawling, a loose net tossed over a mountain range.  Relationships are complicated, and usually when you try to boil them down to simplicity you wind up omitting vital steps.

And maybe you’re trying to define polyamory not as it exists, as some sort of glowing ideal, a beacon to guide people to the One True Way.  But the big problem with the One True Way is that it often encourages people to cover up their un-true parts so they can get the credit for doing things the right way.  And then you have all of these hidden bits that fester, because we want to believe *so hard* that our heroes walk a righteous path that we’ll quietly overlook mountains of evidence to the contrary.

No.  For me, polyamory is defined with its flaws.  Polyamory has both grand loves and breathtaking betrayals.  Polyamory has both brotherly intensity and shallow fuckery.  Polyamory encompasses all these experiences, and to say otherwise is to erase the bad in some misguided attempt to leave only the good.

But like any relationship, I think you can only truly appreciate someone when you adore both the good and the bad within them.  Polyamory has done me a lot of good.  It’s also done me a fair share of harm.

I love it regardless.

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